The Jubilee Project raises questions about the meaning of “unconditional love”

The Jubilee Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization that, according to their website, “exists to tell stories that inspire change.” Creating Public Service Announcements, short films, and documentaries, the Jubilee Project raises awareness for various causes, fund-raises in case of crises such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and calls for action. In the “About Us” section, the founders of the Jubilee Project state “We believe that #DoingGoodisContagious.” Yet how much good is the Jubilee Project doing with the production of the video below? Do they support any misconceptions about blindness?

The Jubilee Project created the video Blind Devotion as part of a series about unconditional love. The short film explores the fictional story of a husband and wife – Louie and Cecilia – and their experiences with Cecilia’s transition to being blind. Reflecting on her situation, Cecilia questions, “How do you tell the person you love you’re going blind? I can’t help but think that I’m becoming his patient, not his partner.” The film also discusses the conflict of wanting to help loved ones while not wanting to become a burden. Eventually, Cecilia successfully adjusts to being blind, learning new skills for navigating her home and city, and returning to work.

Following a switch to Louie’s perspective, it is revealed that Louie has been following Cecilia on her commute to and from work every day since she became blind. Despite Cecilia’s positive transition to her new circumstances, Louie feels the need to shadow her in her daily activities, and to hide his actions from Cecilia. I wonder, is Louie truly helping Cecilia or is he hindering her efforts to regain her independence? Despite his loving intentions, his actions are deceptive. If this were a real situation, what effects might Louie’s ignorance of Cecilia’s right to personal agency and to privacy have on their relationship, and on Cecilia’s progress towards living an independent life?

As humans, we are justified and expected to be concerned about our loved ones in times of difficulty. However, unless that loved one is a young child, we are not allowed to practice over-protectiveness and condescension, whatever the degree of our good intent. The Jubilee Project celebrates Louie’s actions as “unconditional love” to be admired and respected. Do you think his actions represent “unconditional love”? How do you think Cecilia would react if she realized what Louie has been doing? Would you say that his actions are respectful?

Organizations such as the Huffington Post and Elite Daily have reported on Blind Devotion with the perspective that Louie’s actions truly represent “unconditional love”. We must ask ourselves why, as a society, we are so inclined to see deception of people with disabilities, such as Cecilia’s character, as worthy of praise and celebration?

For a contrasting perspective on living with blindness, Daniel Kish’s TedTalk is available here. As someone born blind, Kish has the opinion that his blindness has not inhibited his life, but rather given him an enriching experience.

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of DisAbility Rights Galaxy.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.